T-Wireless NW

Review

posted 5/12/2009 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
Since its launch, the Wii has seen a glut of first and third party peripherals, but there has been little quality hardware amid the flood of white plastic. We’ve had Nintendo’s superfluous Zapper and Wii Wheel, the innumerable aftermarket “accessory” packs that offer useless doodads like plastic tennis rackets and cooking tools, and don’t even get me started on all the worthless Wii Fit crap. Yes, the Wii is mostly a shallow fad and numerous companies are trying to make a quick dishonest buck off the largely ignorant casual crowd. Still, there are a few upstanding peripheral makers producing good stuff for the console.

Nyko of course is in a league of its own, routinely showing up Nintendo with their Wii remote, nunchuk, and zapper replacements, but another company, Thrustmaster, is making a big push into the crowded Wii market. I heard good things about their T-Wireless controller and after searching for months, finally found the elusive peripheral at a local Microcenter.

The TW fits a nice niche in the Wii hardware pantheon because it fills two areas that Nintendo has left severely lacking—Virtual Console and GameCube control. The TW is a classic-style control pad that bears some resemblance to Nintendo’s own Classic Controller, but its features are vastly superior. First and foremost it’s completely wireless so you don’t have to play Virtual Console games while tethered to a Wii remote. In fact the TW doesn’t use the remote at all, but communicates with the Wii directly through a dongle that plugs into a GameCube controller port.

The TW isn’t technically a Classic Controller stand-in but really a third party GameCube controller, and because the Cube pads already play VC games, the TW effectively replaces both the Classic Controller and GameCube controller. However its styling is closer to the Classic Controller so it is more comfortable to play VC games with it than it is to play them with a Cube pad. I know this is all a bit confusing, so I’ve included a comparison photo to help differentiate between all of the controllers:


The TW is basically a replacement for Nintendo’s Wavebird, an excellent wireless GameCube controller that Nintendo discontinued for no good reason. This means that the TW handles all the functionality of the Classic, GameCube, and wireless Wavebird controllers. The TW throws in some other features too, that none of the previous pads included.

For one it has rumble feedback, the omission of which was the Wavebird’s Persian flaw. Unfortunately the rumble isn’t used by VC games by virtue of their programming (a mortal sin in the case of StarFox 64, if you ask me) but the TW’s rumble will work with all of your GameCube games, just in case you want to take advantage of the Wii’s full backwards compatibility. If you want to deactivate the ruble to save battery, there’s a dedicated switch on the bottom of the controller to turn the rumble motors on and off. The TW runs off three triple-A batteries and its life is significantly lower than the Wavebird’s legendary battery life. Considering my brother and I joke that our grandchildren will be the first people to change the batteries in our Wavebird, the TW has a perfectly respectable battery life of around 12-14 hours; about the same as a Wii remote, actually.

The TW is basically a replacement for Nintendo’s Wavebird, an excellent wireless GameCube controller that Nintendo discontinued for no good reason. This means that the TW handles all the functionality of the Classic, GameCube, and wireless Wavebird controllers. The TW throws in some other features too, that none of the previous pads included.

For one it has rumble feedback, the omission of which was the Wavebird’s Persian flaw. Unfortunately the rumble isn’t used by VC games by virtue of their programming (a mortal sin in the case of StarFox 64, if you ask me) but the TW’s rumble will work with all of your GameCube games, just in case you want to take advantage of the Wii’s full backwards compatibility. If you want to deactivate the ruble to save battery, there’s a dedicated switch on the bottom of the controller to turn the rumble motors on and off. The TW runs off three triple-A batteries and its life is significantly lower than the Wavebird’s legendary battery life. Considering my brother and I joke that our grandchildren will be the first people to change the batteries in our Wavebird, the TW has a perfectly respectable battery life of around 12-14 hours; about the same as a Wii remote, actually.

The TW has a few traditional third party bonus features as well. Turbo and slow-mo buttons replicate features you’d find on an old NES controller, and while they work about the same as the NES Advantage did back in 1987 they’re nice to have for nostalgia’s sake. The big bonus of this controller is the ability to remap any and all of the buttons. The process is simple: hit the “map” button, press a button or analog stick direction and then press the button you want to remap that function to. This is useful for those esoteric VC games that don’t let you pick your control configuration. It’s not hard to remap but you can get the buttons confused rather easily, so it’s a good idea to write down your key mappings on a piece of paper. To reset the controller to its default mapping simply hold the map button down for a few seconds and you’re good to go.

The button layout is similar to the Classic Controller but with a few key differences. You get the standard D-pad and X, Y, A and B setup with two analog sticks situated below the buttons, very reminiscent of a Playstation pad. The buttons are slightly squishier than the Classic Controller’s and the D-pad has an odd concave, “scooped” design but overall the TW is remarkably comfortable for playing VC games. The four shoulder buttons are stacked vertically, with LZ and RZ piggybacking the L and R triggers on both sides. The TW doesn’t have a select button, but one of the Z buttons usually fills that function and in the case of Super Metroid, is much more comfortable for swapping items.


The shoulder buttons might put off some GameCube purists, though. All four of the buttons are analog, but instead of the “slide and click” design of the Cube they have a squishy depression like the PS2’s DualShock shoulder buttons. I tried a number of Cube games with the TW and this change was never a huge problem, but it does take some getting used to. It really isn’t an issue for VC games.

The ergonomics of the TW are a mixed bag depending on how big your hands are. It has rubberized “wings” and a wider grip around the shoulder buttons so it is much easier to hold than the flat, ovoid Classic Controller. However it’s also about the same size as the CC—pretty small—and the buttons are actually a bit closer together than the CC’s. I’m pretty sure my hands are smaller than Master Yoda’s so I didn’t run into any serious cramping, but if you’re more on the average-to-Lou Ferigno hand size then you might have some problems holding the TW.

The TW is really just a replacement for the Wavebird and wired GameCube pads, and because it works just like a Cube pad and plugs into the same socket, it also doubles as a Classic Controller. It just happens to be shaped a lot more like a CC, so it’s naturally better for playing VC games than a Cube controller is. It does okay as a total replacement for both Cube and CC pads but its “middle ground” design doesn’t make it completely ideal for either style of play. That said, it’s a great little controller for only 20 bucks and a sight better than the equally priced, dangly, plasticy Classic Controller, and it doesn’t do too bad as a GameCube pad either. Now that the Wavebird is impossible to find on store shelves, the T-Wireless is your best bet for 2-in-1 Cube and Classic functionality.




A-
Thrustmaster’s T-Wireless is a great alternative to the Classic Controller and a decent one to the GameCube pad. Its remapping feature is very helpful if you know how to use it, and because the controller basically works like a GameCube pad it completely bypasses the Wii remote. It doesn’t work perfectly for both styles of play but considering the features and functionality you’re getting it’s a real bargain for only $20.